Penang has recently experienced a series of unfortunate events which has contributed to possibly one of the worst floods in her history. With heavy rainfalls, a broken dam and high tides, the island city famous for her food and rich history was stricken with floods in many areas. This led to massive evacuation of flood victims to relief centres with the coordination by the state, federal authorities and the army. Although this disaster left many feeling helpless and had damaged their homes, we also hear many heart-warming stories on how Malaysians from all walks of life came together to help the victims getting back on their feet.
The following is one such story.
Gina Koay, the current chairman of Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society, Penang Branch, took charge to lead the disaster relief squad. She has a great team, the Penang Area Committee, which has contributed tremendously throughout the relief programme, with both Ms Wong Lee Fung and Brian Tan deserving a special mention for their tireless effort. She has also worked hand-in-hand with the Head of MPS Community Health Chapter, Ms Bharati Suresh Chand.
In a telephone interview with Gina, she fondly recalled how quickly help came from all quarters of the society. The duo ordered medical supplies in the morning of Sunday 5th November 2017, the day right after the heavy rainfall, from local suppliers and the supplies arrived by noon. With the help from pharmacy students from USM, the medical supplies were all sorted, packed, labelled and ready to be shipped out around afternoon.
“I am so surprised they really sent the stock to me so quickly…and many students came to help!”
Gina couldn’t hold her excitement in when she spoke of these events.
The evening itself saw a large group of volunteer pharmacists going from door-to-door to provide services such as dispensing of medications for minor ailments, first aid, and even blood pressure and blood sugar checks.
“We are like a mobile pharmacy, carrying our medications and BP sets to help people. They were very grateful for the services rendered to them and they got to learn more about pharmacists and what we do.”
This did not end here.
For the next few days the pharmacists continued their volunteer work. Using the resources sent by MPS, the local community pharmacists organized themselves and served their own communities while the main team led by Gina and Bharati moved between relief centres and visited homes of victims. Their hard work spurred other healthcare professionals to join them as well.
Dr. Thor joined the relief effort soon after and this attracted even more medical doctors to volunteer. Their presence could not be more timely. This expanded the services that the relief effort could provide. Many victims are patients with chronic illnesses and have lost their daily medications such as those for blood pressure lowering and diabetes. With the presence of medical doctors, they re-assess the patients’ conditions and prescribe medications for them while pharmacists dispense based on their prescriptions.
It was indeed a heart-warming experience for both the victims and volunteers seeing the true “Muhibbah” spirit of Malaysians.
When asked why did she organize this relief effort, Gina said that she has been serving the Penang community for many years and they have supported her all this while so this was the time to give back to society. However, she knew that she could not do this alone hence drew from the resources provided from MPS, and with the help of Bharati, they were able to do something for the community they so loved. It was also a great opportunity for the patients and the community to get to know their pharmacists and understand what the pharmacists can do for them.
“Pharmacists do take part in many relief efforts, but are mainly unsung heroes. We would like to give back to the society and show them what we are capable of!”
Gina also divulges that there are plans to replicate efforts such as this under the MPS umbrella in other states facing natural disasters.
Here, the Editorial Team would like to thank Gina, Bharati, MPS and all who chipped in to help the victims of the Penang flood. You deserve our utmost respect!
For those who like to donate and lend a helping hand to this effort, kindly contact Gina at 012 – 410 0225